Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins

These brown sugar muffins are one of my “go to” muffin recipes. My kids love them for breakfast or a snack and I always double the recipe.

You can freeze these brown sugar muffins or pack the leftovers in their lunchbox.

When I created this recipe I had an oven that always cooked things quicker than most ovens. Please adjust your baking time accordingly. If you are making regular sized muffins you might need to bake them for 20-22 minutes. Mini muffins bake much quicker so keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

brown sugar muffins

These brown sugar muffins aren’t super healthy, so it is usually a special treat in our house. It’s also a great item to bring to a potluck brunch. They are always a big hit.

They are also a great weight watchers snack! Each muffin is only 2 pts!

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour ( I use whole wheat or a mixture of white and wheat)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (or substitute applesauce for oil)
  • brown sugar
  • cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Mix together flour, white sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add egg, milk and oil and mix together.
  3. Fill muffin cups 1/4 full with batter.
  4. Add a pinch of brown sugar. (Or a little more)
  5. Cover the brown sugar with batter.
  6. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on top.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

What’s great about these brown sugar muffins (or any muffin) is that you can customize them to your own taste. Some simple reader substitutions are below:

  • Substitute applesauce instead of oil.
  • Try cinnamon applesauce instead of oil (yum!).
  • Use powdered milk.
  • Increase the fiber by adding shredded apple, cranberries, or bran.
  • Drizzle with caramel.
  • Add blueberries to the mix.
  • Brush muffins with melted butter after cooking.
  • Substitute regular milk with coconut milk.
  • Add a pinch of nutmeg and a splash of vanilla.
  • Use one mashed banana as a substitute for the egg and oil.
  • Mix in cinnamon chips (you can find these during the holidays).

Remember to add your modifications to the comments below! I’d love to hear how they turned out.

brown sugar muffins

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How to Motivate Yourself to Make Dinner

Do you scroll through your Instagram feed and see beautiful homemade meals prepared by your friends? While they are sharing healthy, beautiful meals you are struggling to motivate yourself to make dinner.

We’ve all been there. We barely make it out the door with the kids, work gets crazy, and then come home and the last thing we want to do is make dinner. When we’re sick or not feeling up to it, it can be extremely challenging to get dinner on the table. Takeout or heading to a restaurant is convenient, but is expensive over time. If you’re trying to cut back on eating out, or just need some motivation, here’s how to motivate yourself to make dinner.

how to motivate yourself to make dinner

Keep it simple

If your meals take hours to prepare, you’ll never make them. It’s more important make dinner, not make the world’s best dinner. Sandwiches, fruit, and salad is dinner, and is probably cheaper and healthier than anything you’ll order at a restaurant. Keep your menu plans simple to combat the urge to eat out.

When my kids were younger I asked them what their five favorite dinners were. I combined their answers and added a few extra ideas to come up with 3o days of meals. I used this list for several years, plugging in dinners from my list to create my weekly menu plan.

Make a menu plan

Coming up with a fresh new dinner each night is exhausting. Save yourself some trouble by making a menu plan. When you have a menu plan you no longer have to think about what’s for dinner. The menu plan tells you what to make for dinner!

Do you need meat out of the freezer, you can plan for it.  If you need to put everything into the crock pot in the morning, you know how to do it. When you know what you’re making, it’s takes less brain power to make it.

Give yourself the night off every once in awhile

Giving yourself the night off doesn’t necessarily mean eating out. It could mean peanut butter sandwiches, frozen pizza, or leftovers. If you can treat yourself to a night out every once in awhile, do it! But if you can’t, there are other ways to give yourself the night off.

This will keep you from cooking burn out, and still ensure you get dinner on the table.

If you plan for a night out, you can find restaurants were kids eat free or maybe they have 1/2 price appetizers during happy hour. If you plan your meals out, you can capitalize on coupons and discounts and save.

Make Fast Food

After one of my children was born I realized I needed some quick go-to meals that took less than 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish. I came up with my fast five meals. These were meals my family enjoyed and I could have on the table quickly.

To make your list of fast five meals look for recipes with short prep and cook times. It’s easy to motivate yourself to make dinner if you know it will only take 15 to 20 minutes.  If you don’t mind waiting for food to cook, look for recipes with short prep times so you can have dinner in the oven in just a few minutes.

Make Dinner in the Morning

I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but I have more energy in the morning than I do after 5pm. This works best for crock pot meals (throw everything in before you leave for work, school, or start your day) but it can be done with most meals.

While my kids eat breakfast or get ready it is simple to chop vegetables for a salad, brown meat for tacos, or other dinner prep that can be done ahead of time.

Freezer Meals

For years I avoided freezer cooking like the plague! I tried it once and destroyed my kitchen, spent nine hours cooking, and never wanted to make dinner again. To make matters worse, my family didn’t love a lot of the meals I made.

However a few years ago I decided to give it another try, except this time I decided to freezer cook with a friend. This was a totally different experience and I highly recommend it! We had meals for two months and it made dinner time so easy!

Do the Math

The one thing that motivates me to make dinner more than anything else is when I do the math. It costs approximately $35 for my family to eat dinner at a fast food restaurant (a cheap one like McDonalds- not Panera, FiveGuys, etc).

It costs about $10 to feed my family dinner and we typically have leftovers for at least one lunch. For each meal I make at home I save $25. If we swap out one fast food restaurant meal for a dinner at home each week for a year that’s a savings of $1,300. Over 18 years that’s $23,400. I don’t know about you but I’d rather eat chicken quesadillas and a salad a few times a month at home and have $23,000 to show for it after my kids grow up!

How to motivate yourself to make dinner

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How to Menu Plan on a Budget

While it can be challenging to menu plan on a budget, it can be done. If you have a tight grocery budget, you can’t afford not to menu plan. When you don’t know what’s for dinner, you will find yourself eating out or making multiple trips to the store and spending extra money.

If you’ve stumbled across this post it’s probably because you have a limited grocery budget, and need to learn how to cut back where you can.

I’ve shared my meal planning story many times, but years ago I found myself needing to cut back on spending and after taking a look at our family’s grocery budget I realized I could cut WAY back! I was shopping multiple times a week and never really had a plan.

How to menu plan on a budget

After I start to menu plan and shop the sales (and use a few coupons) I was able to cut our grocery budget in half!

How to menu plan on a budget

Print or look up your grocery store’s weekly ad. 

Every week, stores change their prices on hundreds of items and print flyers that usually arrive in your mailbox or the newspaper. You can find these store circulars online if you don’t want to go to the store each week just to grab the flier. (I highly recommend getting it online, why waste gas with an extra trip to the store.)

Usually these store circulars are found near the entrance or near check out. Even stores like Aldi and Walmart have them. Before you start menu planning for the week, pick up a copy of the ad for reference. Shopping sales is one of the best ways to save money on your menu plan, so you’ll want to have this handy.

For example, if your local grocery store has chicken breasts on sale that week, then add several chicken dishes to your menu plan. Since meat can be one of the biggest grocery budget busters, finding ways to save is a key component to menu plan on a budget.

Also, if you have a little extra money in the grocery budget, stock up on sale items that you know will last and you can use in a future menu plan.

Check for coupons.

Check online, in the newspaper, or ask friends and family for coupons. The best way to save on
your grocery shopping is by combining deals and coupons. Taking the extra time to check
around for coupons could save you hundreds of dollars per year! Once you have to store ad, be sure
to round up all your coupons so you can see if there are any great deal match-ups.

There are many blogs out there who do this for you, so save time and find a website that posts coupon match-ups every week.

Don’t forget that many stores now offer their own store coupons and coupons in their apps. These don’t even have to be cut, you just need to virtually clip them in the app and they are automatically deducted from your total.

Check to see what you already have in your freezer and pantry.

Smart shoppers shop their own kitchen before heading to the store.  Go through your fridge, freezer, and
pantry and write down everything you have. Using food you’ve already purchased will save you money (you aren’t throwing away rotten food) and time because you’ll have to buy less at the store.

Grab your free freezer and pantry inventory printables here.

Maybe you have a bag of rice in the pantry and some frozen beef in the freezer. Purchase some fresh or frozen vegetables and you have a full meal using up what you’ve already purchased.

Look at your store circular to see if you can combine what you have with something on sale to make a meal.

Write down your meals.

Once you know what you have, what’s on sale, and what coupons are available it’s time to meal plan. Start by looking at what match-ups. Are you able to make a meal from one of the match-ups of either what you have and what’s on sale, or what’s on sale and a coupon?

Need menu planning worksheets? Download our free resources here. 

You can even do all three!

Once you’ve exhausted the possibilities, search online. Can you find any recipes to make using the ingredients available to you through sales or what you have?

There are even websites that allow you to list ingredients and they search the web for recipes based on what you already have or what is on sale.

Often I had trouble coming up with meals my kids would actually eat. I ended up creating a list of “go-to” meals that I would pull from when I created my menu plan. I explain more about how I created a list of meals my family would eat here.

Keep your meals simple.

One of the best ways to keep your grocery budget low is to plan simple meals. Meatless meals are very inexpensive or consider mixing your meat with beans or rice to make it stretch.

Create meals that will yield leftovers that can be used for lunch for additional savings.

Can you use some of the leftover ingredients for breakfast? For example one might we might have tacos and the next morning we can use some of those ingredients for egg burritos.

Stay away from fancy meals with ingredients you will never use again. It’s easy to bust your budget by spending $5 on an spice or sauce that you will only use once. If you have children they probably prefer the simple meals anyway.

menu planning resources

When I learned to menu plan on a budget it dramatically changed our family’s finances. We were able to get out of debt and save hundreds of dollars every month (without using coupons!) just by creating a menu plan every week.

Not only did we save money, we ate healthier because we avoided those late minute trips through the drive-thru because I didn’t have a plan.

If you need to trim your family’s budget, start with menu planning. I promise you will save money and you will never wonder what’s for dinner again.

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How to Substitute Applesauce for Oil in Baking

how to substitute applesauce for oil

Substituting applesauce for oil is one of my favorite healthy baking tips. Applesauce is inexpensive to buy, easy to make, and healthier for you than oil. You can substitute applesauce for oil in cookies, muffins, cakes, brownies, basically any baked good.

Substituting applesauce for oil is very simple. The ratio is one to one (applesauce to oil) however most of the cookbooks I’ve read say that you shouldn’t use more than 1/4 a cup of applesauce as a substitute for oil. Using more can change the chemistry of a recipe and it could flop.

To keep that from happening, my suggestion is to start with 1/4 a cup and increase it incrementally if the recipe calls for more oil. For example, if a recipe calls for 1/2 a cup of oil, then the first time I make the recipe I will use 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/4 cup of oil. If the recipe is a success and I don’t notice a big difference in taste or texture, I’ll increase the applesauce by 1/8 a cup the next time I make it. If it works again I’ll substitute applesauce for the the entire amount of oil.

For some recipes, you can substitute the entire amount and for some only half the amount and it still results in a delicious outcome.  Either way, using applesauce instead of the entire amount of oil called for in a recipe will save on calories and fat without altering the taste.  An easy (and inexpensive) healthy baking tip!

baking pro tip

When making muffins use a cookie scoop to scoop muffins into the muffin tins. This will ensure that all your muffin tins are filled evenly and you have less mess on the outside of the tin to clean up when you are done!

Here are a few of our favorite muffin recipes that I personally substitute applesauce for oil:

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins

(substitute 1/4 cup canola oil with 1/4 cup applesauce)

brown sugar cinnamon muffins

Simple Banana Muffins 

(substitute 1/4 cup oil with 1/4 cup applesauce)

Mocha Banana Muffins

(replace 1/2 cup canola oil with 1/2 cup applesauce)

mocha banana muffins

What is your favorite healthy substitute in recipes?

See more recipe ideas here.

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